But the categories ‘fiction’ and ‘non-fiction’ exist for a reason
One of my favourite childhood memories of my late grandmother happened when I was about eight years old. My grandmother had been on holiday and when she returned she brought back presents for myself and my siblings. My present was a Ladybird book of Greek myths containing the stories of Theseus and the Minotaur and Perseus and the Gorgons. I read the book over and over again. I’m pretty sure it was one of the reasons I got into History – wanting to know more about the society that created such fantastic tales. What I never did however, even as a child, was get my ideas about morality from the legends of Classical Greece. The gods of Olympics and the heroes of these legends seem to behave in a pretty immoral, or rather amoral, fashion. All societies have produced stories about superhuman beings – those of the Norse are particularly good and the Viking view of heaven as an endless drinking party is definitely one I can relate to. The great misfortune of History is that a large number of people have been forced to live according to the primitive morality contained in the myths and legends of the Ancient Hebrews. Continue reading “I Like Stories Too”
Imagine a world untouched by Christianity.
I recently attended a three day history conference. Now I know that sounds like torture to a lot of people but I loved it. One of the highlights was a professor of ancient history giving a lecture comparing democracy in ancient Greece and modern Europe. In particular he drew parallels between the Brexit Referendum in 2016 and the Sicilian Expedition during the Peloponnesian War (431-404BC). Whatever your views of the referendum, it was an exercise in democracy on an very large scale. Over 33,000,000 people voted – 72% of registered voters and 65% of the voting age population. In Athens, the people’s assembly (demos) voted on all government business; it was a direct rather than a representative democracy. In 415BC, the demos voted enthusiastically in favour of a plan to conquer Sicily. The expedition was a disaster and the Athenians lost 200 ships and thousands of soldiers. Whether the Brexit vote turns into a disaster on the scale of Sicily is anyone’s guess (personally, I doubt it). The point I am trying to make is that studying Classical History helps us to understand the workings of democracy. People are people, demagogues are demagogues – although I would hesitate to compare Boris Johnson to Alcibiades because he would like it too much. Upper-class playboy with a penchant for rabble-rousing and swapping sides? Sounds familiar? Continue reading “In Defence Of Classical History “
Religion is dying but the religious mindset lives on
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastics 1:9)
In about 385AD, a group of black clad religious fanatics appeared from the Syrian desert to attack the temple of Athena in the city of Palmyra. Palmyra stood at the eastern edge of the Roman Empire and the larger-than-life statue of the goddess had been created in a workshop hundreds of miles away and transported with considerable difficulty and expense to create an oasis of Greco-Roman culture in the Syrian desert. The religious fanatics decapitated the statue, pushed it from its pedestal, cut off its arms and left it in the dirt before melting back into the desert.
In 2015, a group of black clad religious fanatics appeared from the Syrian desert to attack Palmyra. The statue of Athena, that had been carefully repaired by archaeologists, was again attacked. Once more she was decapitated, once more her arm was cut off.
These religious fanatics, separated by more than 1700 years of time, are united by their hatred of ‘idolatry,’ their ignorance and their worship of the Abrahamic god. Christianity is Islam and Islam is Christianity. Continue reading “The New Puritans”
The most reasonable position is non-belief
I took the title of this piece from C. S. Lewis’ famous defence of belief – Mere Christianity. Lewis is most famous for his Narnia stories – a thinly-veiled retelling of Christian myths, with Aslan the Lion standing in for the Jesus of Nazareth character. Karl Marx famously described religion as the “opium of the people” although modern day radical Islam is more like crack cocaine. Lewis’ Anglican Christianity is like a nice cup of tea. All religions fail the basic test of reasonableness – there is not a scrap of evidence for the claims they make. I would contend that the most reasonable position any reasonable person can take is not to believe in any religion. Continue reading “Mere Atheism”
An unhealthy fixation on female virginity
It is my belief that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the same religion with slightly different emphases. It is also my belief that followers of the Abrahamic religion(s) have a disturbing and unhealthy obsession with sex. Jewish folks mutilate the penises of newborn baby boys and Christians appear determined to stop same sex couples marrying one another. In the first case I would ask why Jews think they know better than the omnipotent being who went to so much trouble to create the foreskin; in the second I would suggest to Christians opposed to same sex marriage that they don’t marry someone of the same sex. But in 2017, one of the most dangerous and unpleasant obsessions is that of some Muslims with female virginity. Whether this is due to Islam or what the Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy calls “toxic mix of culture and religion” I don’t know. However, the German journalist Guner Yasemin Balci, who is of Turkish descent, certainly thinks there are some people in her “community” have quite old-fashioned views about sex and the role of women in society.
Please watch Balci’s film “Obsessed With Virginity – Female Sexuality Among Western Muslims.” It is 42 minutes long but well worth watching. The people in the film are exactly the type of folks “liberals” and “progressives” should be supporting rather than the bearded barbarians who have nothing to offer except hate speech and spurious accusations of “racism” and “Islamophobia.”
I have always felt that Billy Connelly has expressed the most succinct view about the mad obsession with 72 virgins in a mythical afterlife. Here is his foul-mouthed rant about suicide bombers, virgins and forced marriages. Enjoy.
Or, at least, his fan club is
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has been out of fashion for a long time because he is (unfairly in my opinion) associated with the poisonous ideology of National Socialism. Nietzsche’s philosophy can be quite confronting and unpleasant to modern sensibilities but at its heart lies a rejection of the childish morality of Christianity that has dominated European thinking for more than a millennium. As an atheist, when Nietzsche declared “God is dead” he did not mean that God had literally died; he was talking about a certain conception of God that was out of date.
In his book Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (translated as “The Gay Science” or “The Joyful Pursuit of Knowledge and Understanding”) Nietzsche wrote…
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
The last sentence makes it clear that we must accept the responsibility for our own actions and behaviour rather than loading our “sins” onto a mythical scapegoat in the manner of the primitive shepherds of Ancient Israel. Continue reading “God Is Dying”
You’ve got to love Richard Dawkins
The splendid Richard Dawkins appeared on Bill Maher’s show on Friday (11/08/2017) and took aim at the intellectual pygmies who disinvited him from making a speech because he had made “hurtful” comments about Islam. In the interview, Dawkins stated…
“I think that this radio station and these universities, they are on our side. We’re on their side. Now, I was de-platformed specifically because of what I was alleged to have said about Islam. I think that the reason they did it was probably a laudable motive, they are on the side of oppressed minorities. They think that Muslims are an oppressed minority, oppressed by people like us. Actually, of course, Muslims are oppressed by Islam.”
He later argued that Muslims who don’t oppress women or gay people are being persecuted by those who do and “That’s where the persecution comes from.” Continue reading “Freedom Of Speech Is Not Blasphemy Update #2”